The man in the national spotlight and under the green and white microscope in Crabtown tonight will be Mark Sanchez, and rightly so. The kid quarterback from Southern Cal with the perfect teeth, the big hands and the precocious presence gets his first NFL start of any kind against the big bad Ravens defense and their rabid purple-clad fans. How Sanchez does, good, bad or indifferent, will be the headlines for a few days and could even reverberate into the regular season.
But this is not an insignificant test for Kellen Clemens, trying to win the starter's job. Nor is it an insurmountable challenge for KC. I asked him his last interview question at SUNY Cortland on Thursday about the last time he played in M & T Bank Stadium. He remembered and he smiled.
"I have fond memories of Baltimore. Unfortunately, we were on the wrong end of the game," Clemens said. "I've been there and played and it was an even bigger scene than it will be Monday night. There is a comfort level going in."
That game, the second of the 2007 season, was a milestone contest in Clemens' NFL career. He'd had two prior preseason starts, in '06 and '07, both against Philadelphia, but this game was different. With Chad Pennington unable to start due to the high ankle sprain he suffered in the opener against New England, Clemens was making his first regular-season start.
For three quarters the Jets managed three points and 107 yards of offense and the Birds were circling for the kill. And then suddenly, they weren't as Clemens engineered 197 yards of offense and two scoring drives and quieted Rex Ryan's Baltimore defense and the crowd until Ray Lewis iced the 20-13 victory with an end zone interception with 1:03 to play.
The passing yardage is the second-most in a quarter in the past 12 seasons, behind only the 235 yards in the fourth-quarter of the Monday Night Miracle against the Dolphins. And both the passing and total yardage figures are the most in any quarter of a road game in those last dozen seasons.
"Kellen almost beat us," Ryan reflected after becoming the Jets' coach. "I think they might have been a dropped pass away from that game being a little closer than we wanted."
Multiple drops, in fact, with Laveranues Coles unable to handle one throw and Justin McCareins two others.
On Saturday, back at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center, Clemens expounded a little more on that game and particularly that quarter.
"The first three quarters were difficult. We didn't do a lot offensively. And in the fourth quarter, we made some progress, almost brought the game back and at least force it into overtime," he said. "So the fourth quarter is a big memory of mine that sticks out. Unfortunately, we were on the wrong end of it. We've gone down to that stadium in a pretty hostile environment and had some success. It's not quite a coming-home party, but we're excited to go back to a place that we've been."
Clemens may be running with the twos tonight, but it wouldn't surprise me if he forces this year's quarterback competition to head for a tiebreaker against the Giants on Saturday night.
Here are the most total yards and passing yards in one quarter by a Jets offense since the start of the Bill Parcells era in 1997:
|2000- 7||vs. MIA||4||247||2000- 7||vs. MIA||4||235|
|2000-13||vs. IND||1||201||2007- 2||at BAL||4||176|
|2007- 2||at BAL||4||197||2003- 2||vs. MIA||4||175|
|2004- 7||vs. MIA||3||187||2002-15||vs. NE||1||173|
|2002-15||vs. NE||1||186||2000- 2||vs. NE||4||165|
Feely Stays Home
Kicker Jay Feely's had a sore groin for a little while, which is why Parker Douglass was originally signed. Tonight, Douglass will do all the kickoffs and placekicking against the Ravens because Feely did not accompany the Jets to Baltimore.
Feely, on his Twitter page, said he stayed back in North Jersey to continue his rehab. "Kicked well Saturday in practice," he tweeted, "but coach wants me to be 100% week one. Just being prudent."
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